OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — Joe Maddon’s bullpen was stretched so thin after five hours that the Tampa Bay manager asked designated hitter Jeff Keppinger to start warming up.
Pitching wasn’t the Rays’ biggest problem as it turns out in their longest road game in franchise history.
Tampa Bay managed only eight hits and stranded four runners over the final two frames of a 4-3 loss to the Oakland Athletics in 15 innings on Monday night after Maddon emptied his bullpen trying to hang on.
“We just have to hit the ball better,” Maddon said. “We didn’t make a lot of hard contact tonight. We’re just not able to get the hits yet. Everything else I’m pleased with.”
He should be.
Eight Rays pitchers combined for 21 strikeouts — the most ever by an A’s team.
Tampa Bay’s bullpen pitched out of bases loaded jams in the ninth and 10th innings before Oakland’s Jemile Weeks hit a one-out sacrifice fly off Kyle Farnsworth to drive in Brandon Inge with the game-winning run.
“It stinks any time you lose a game,” Tampa Bay starter David Price said. “It’s tough when you play for as long as we did tonight. To not be able to win that game stings a little bit.”
The game lasted 5 hours, 9 minutes and ended at 12:17 a.m.
Like the A’s, the Rays had several opportunities to win the game but repeatedly fell short after getting runners in scoring position.
Ben Zobrist and Keppinger hit back-to-back singles leading off the 14th but Oakland reliever Jerry Blevins retired the next three batters.
Tampa Bay also got two runners on in the 15th but failed to score.
“A lot of fly balls and in this ballpark, it’s definitely going to hang up,” Maddon said. “We’d just come off a two game winning streak where we scored five runs combined and there’s another three spot. We’ve got to do better.”
Inge hit a leadoff single against Kyle Farnsworth (0-3) and advanced to second on a sacrifice. Seth Smith was intentionally walked, and Eric Sogard also walked to load the bases. The Rays then moved right fielder Zobrist to the infield in hopes of getting a double play.
Weeks was 0 for 7 when he came up against the Rays’ five-man infield. He lofted a fly ball and Inge easily beat the throw home from center fielder B.J. Upton.
Brandon Hicks homered for the A’s, who have a major league-leading 12th walkoff wins this season.
Jordan Norberto (3-1) pitched one inning for the win as Oakland improved to 8-2 in extra-inning games this season.
Chris Carter and Kurt Suzuki had RBI doubles in the second to give the A’s a 2-0 lead against David Price.
That ended a franchise record-tying 24-inning scoreless streak by Tampa Bay pitchers that began during the weekend in Anaheim, where the Rays pitched consecutive shutouts for the first time since 2008.
Price, trying to become the majors’ first 15-game winner this season, later pitched out of a two-on, two-out jam in the sixth by striking out Inge before giving up Hicks’ game-tying home run in the seventh. He finished with 11 strikeouts and two walks.
Oakland starter A.J. Griffin didn’t allow a hit until the fourth and ran into trouble that same inning after walking Matt Joyce. Two batters later, Carlos Pena tied it with a double into the gap in right-center that scored Keppinger and Joyce.
Joyce’s 12th homer of the season gave Tampa Bay a 3-2 lead in the sixth.
NOTES: The Rays are encouraged by the progress of injured 3B Evan Longoria (partial hamstring tear) but haven’t set a timetable for his return. … RHP Jeff Niemann threw a bullpen session without setback and is scheduled to pitch a simulated game on Friday in Tampa Bay. The next step will be at least one rehab start for Niemann. … Rays RHP James Shields (8-7) will try to bounce back Tuesday from a shaky start when he issued a season-high five walks in 6-2 loss to Baltimore. LHP Tommy Milone (9-7) goes for Oakland.
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.